Scholarship and education

A new seal for the University of Beijing

PKU seal, designed by Lu Xun.
Last week, Peking University announced that it would unveil new, "standardized" school logos in September. The current version, designed in 1917 by Lu Xun at the behest of Cai Yuanpei, apparently has problems with "non-standard lines on the 'circular logo', the position of the lettering, and non-uniform coloring."

Three new circular logos will be announced next month. Adjustments will also be made to Mao's calligraphic inscription of the university's Chinese name.

A brief item in today's China Times reveals that the new logos will change the university's name in English.

"Peking University," which has endured since 1912, will eventually give way to "University of Beijing." According to the CT article, since place names are typically used as adjectives in English only in informal names of schools, the more familiar "Beijing University" will be limited to colloquial usage. PKU had previously resisted calls to standardize its name with the official Pinyin romanization system.

Not everyone is happy with the changes. In a letter to the editors of the Chinese website of the Financial Times, commentator Jiang Bojing questions the motives behind this logo adjustment, wondering if it is a reaction to the hits PKU has taken this summer over competition from Hong Kong, shady financial dealings, and questionable faculty recruitment. He concludes:

Greatness requires exercising "internal skills," greatness requires accumulating "internal strength"; if changing a school seal can raise up PKU, then all we need are a few ad agencies to strengthen the country.

It could be worse. Zhang Lei, a recent PKU graduate, printed up these shirts to mock the school's parking situation.

Gridlock on campus is a common topic of discussion on the PKU BBS. Though the university has an underground parking garage, people still tend to park above ground, and the campus is sometimes jokingly referred to as a "parking lot."

Update: Fang Zhouzi weighs in on the CT report:

However PKU wishes to standardize its English name is its own right, but to manufacture a "rule of English grammar" like "place names used as adjectives in school names are frequently found only in abbreviated names in speech; in formal written language, the place name should be placed after 'college' or 'university' as a noun." This can't but bring ridicule - or jokes that there's no one in PKU's English department - from anyone in the world who knows English. When former PKU English professor Shen Hong came to New Threads in early February preaching this "rule of English grammar," he was sent packing in embarrassment. Who would have thought that the PKU administration would still take it as a golden rule? Evidently the professors at PKU's English department will have to give new names to the following British and American universities according to PKU's English grammar rules:

Princeton University, New York University, Boston University, Syracuse University, Lancaster University, Coventry University, Cranfield University, Bournemouth University, Keele University, Middlesex University, Roehampton University, Athabasca University, Brandon University....

Would the leaders of PKU please inform the leaders of those universities the next time they meet with them? Some, like like Princeton University, New York University and such, are considerably more famous than PKU. Try to have them follow PKU's English grammar rule first, and then it can become a wordwide rule of English grammar, and PKU can have a world-leading innovation.

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There are currently 8 Comments for A new seal for the University of Beijing.

Comments on A new seal for the University of Beijing

This must be one of the most stupid move PKU is making in recent years. Shall we add Harvard University, Cornell University, Columbia University, Yale University, all of them got their grammar wrong when naming their schools? And the list goes on and on...

Ah, China, where universities change their hallowed and respected brands, and television channels keep their kitsch and widely ridiculed brands!

A bit like limiting the number of characters usable for names. Throw away the 6,000 years of tradition -- so names will "work" with technology that's been around for less than 6 years, and that will accept an unlimited number of characters if we wait another 6 years.

Maybe the govt. should throttle back on the number of marketing degrees being awarded...

Thanks, Joel, for this post.

Oddly enough, I was pondering the PKU logo just this morning. I'd just excavated a bi-lingual survey which had been handed out along South Drum and Gong Alley a few months back by the neighborhood committee. The only evidences of anything remotely official about the multiple-choice survey were: 1) the PKU logo stamped diffidently on the top left corner of the page, 2) an almost complete disconnect with reality, and 3) the fact that 南锣鼓巷/Nan Luogu Xiang was consistently misspelled as Nan Guogu Xiang. (South Drum and Fruit Alley.) Now that I know the old PKU logo and name will soon go the way of the Tibetan Antelope, I'll make certain to mothball the PKU-endorsed survey -- which, of course, was soon followed be the deconstruction-and-Disneyfication of South Drum and Gong Alley. (Beware ill-spelled PKU surveys; the amiable dudes with sledgehammers and new ideas won't be far behind.)

Frankly, I think "University of Beijing" has a nice ring to it. "Peking University" just sounds too old. This is New Beijing, after all, where the ruling ethos dictates that nothing much older than a bad hair day ought to be preserved. (Hutongs, traditional architecture, trees, names... Who needs 'em?!) "Peking University" is eccentric, subversive, curmudgeonly. That troublemaking, unstandard "k" is a letter just begging for rectification. "University of Beijing," on the other hand, has a very comforting, monolithic feel to it. Very grey, featureless, wide, squat. The cypher-like "of" is squeezed between those two big nouns like a Flying Pigeon getting squished by a Benz and an SUV. Very one-dreamy, one-worldy. I say, toss ye olde "PKU" into No Name Lake, auction off the domain name on Ebay, and march bravely onward to The Singularity^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H 2008.

[Memo to City Management: When I say toss PKU into the lake, I mean the letters, not the university itself.]

mind you, there are also -
Univeristy of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of Birmingham, University of Edinburgh, University of Leeds, University of Warwick, University of California, University of San Francisco, etc

"place names used as adjectives in school names are frequently found only in abbreviated names in speech; in formal written language, the place name should be placed after 'college' or 'university' as a noun." this is TRUE as a general rule. but there are exceptions to every rule and we should should follow the usage of the individual university. (it's noteworthy that in this case “** univeristiy" is more common in US.)

anyway, the name "University of Beijing" sounds pretty cool.

When I was going there, I used to argue with classmates and the people at the foreign students' office that they should just change it to Beijing University and have done with it. They used to defend "Peking" incredibly vigorously, like, getting really, really serious about it, whereas I was totally just screwing around. They'd go on about the glorious history of "Peking" and the like, and than I would suggest that if they were into tradition, then they really ought to change the name back to Yenching University, since 'Yanjing' is a much cooler toponym anyway.

Ah well. As annoying as I found it at the time, I always liked that "Peking University" contained a subtle shout-out to Middle-Chinese velar consonants. Sic transit gloria etc..

I suppose this means "Peking University" T-shirts will become a hot item on campus this month. I better go get mine before the new ones are printed up!

I just returned from Lhasa, where I searched in vain for "University of Tibet" T-shirts at Xizang Daxue. When I asked one student on campus where the bookstore (shudian) is located he gave me directions to the library.

Any update on this? The seal on the website still reads PKU.

feng37: Looks like they compromised - no alteration to the English, but they did clean up Lu Xun's original into a smooth vector image.

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